Halloween Squid Ink Pasta with Pumpkin & Cured Epidermis

The makings of a grown up halloween dish: seasonal squash, homemade squid Ink Pasta and “cured epideris”.

Well this year Halloween was not going to get away with just once post apparently. When I was hunting for black food coloring I came close to using squid ink in a sweet out of desperation to get my black color. My pastry chef friend Karyn saved that day … but now I really wanted to use the squid ink to. Fresh made Squid Ink Pasta to the rescue. Throw in some pumpkin for color and atmosphere, and a little bit of suspicious meat: Squid Ink Pasta with Pumpkin and Cured Epidermis.

Happy Halloween buaaahahahaha!

Squid Ink Pasta with Pumpkin and proscuitto

Tasty reading ahead, KEEP GOING… →

Mint Basil Pistachio Pesto

Do you grow herbs in your garden? I do but I cook a lot less in the summer so I end up with more herbs than I can handle! A great way to use up a bunch of herbs in one shot is by making a pesto. And let me tell you food blogs are all about pesto right now! I am so amazed by the creativity and variety of pesto out there.

I combined a few recipes to make my own version. I live in a highrise and I have sun only after 3 pm. It can be a challenge for herbs to grow in abundance but mint it never an issue. So of course my pesto with be mint heavy. Check out my Mint Basil Pistachio Pesto recipe.

Mint Basil Pistachio Pesto

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Olive Oils from Sicily, Spain and Israel plus a Lemon Olive Oil Mousse

Funny how coincidences happen sometimes! Can you believe in a 2-day period I received 3 completely different bottles of exquisite Extra-Virgin Olive Oil? I have to admit I have never invested in expensive olive oils myself but all three were an eye opener. But for now I think I am set for a while. Each oil was very unique and each came from a different exotic location: Sicily, Spain and Israel.

To be fair, I will describe them a bit in the order I received them. I had a spoonful of each olive oil and appreciated it like a wine tasting, which is the basic, yet simple,  right way.

The first one I got was the Olive & Olives 8 Hojiblanca, a lovely olive oil from the Seville region of Spain. The the Phoenicians and the Greeks brought the Olive tree to Spain and every since then it has always been considered a high quality olive oil. But up to a few years back it was not a know fact internationally. This one is a wonderful example of a fruity olive oil. It is said to have fresh tomato aromas and a note of young artichoke. I am no expert so this comment goes a bit above my head, but it was light, fruity and wonderful for sure.

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The second bottle, the Mimo Ultra premium Olive Oil, came from a Sicilian friend of mine who has been promising me a bottle since Christmas. He told he was going to start exporting the olive oil his family makes. He assured me that the olives are hand picked by his aunts and uncles right on their ancestral land which they have had for over 150 years in Sicily. The Russa family cultivates and bottles pure unfiltered first press extra-virgin olive oil.

May the Roman Gods strike me down if I lie, this is the most phenomenal and incredible oil I have ever tasted in my life. I never thought an olive oil could taste like this. This may sound weird but if I had to describe the taste I would say it tastes like the whole olive tree. You taste the bark, the leaves, the olives, the pit. I had 3 friends look at me in with confusion when I said this but after tasting the olive oil they knew exactly what I meant. This one falls under the bitter flavor but in the world of olives it is considered a positive attribute because it is indicative of fresh olive fruit. The Mimo Olive Oil  is a limited production so order directly through the family.

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This last olive oil bottle, Teamim, was a gift from my friend Raquel who just got back from a trip to Israel. She surprised me with this gift indeed, I had not expected it. Describing this one is a bit more of a challenge as all the words on the bottle are in Hebrew, as is the company’s website. I do know it has one medals.  This one had a bit more of a grassy taste on top of the fruitiness but it was on par with the Spanish one.

Any of the above mentioned oils would be perfect for the following recipe. Yes, yes is is a dessert, a sweet and tangy treat. I am warning you it does have an olive oil taste, BUT it totallyworks.

Ξ Lemon Mousse with Olive Oil Ξ
recipe from Very Easy…Kitchen

Fine zest of one lemon
Juice of one lemon and half
2 egg yolks and 3 egg whites
5 tablespoons of good olive oil
2 tablespoons of sweet honey
50 g powdered sugar

– In a saucepan, heat on low temperature the egg yolks with the lemon juice and blanched zest.

– When the mixture has thickened, which will not take very long, add olive oil and honey. Chill the mixture (you can prepare the day before).

– Prior to serving, beat your egg whites until stiff while incorporating the powdered sugar.

– Mix your egg whites with the lemon cream. You get an airy foam. Pour in 4 serving cups and garnish if you like. Serve immediately or keep no longer then one hour in the fridge or the mousse will slowly collapse.

Extra-Virgin Olive Oil comes from virgin oil production only and contains no more than 0.8% acidity. No two olive oils are the same because, as with wine, the olives are influenced by the variety of the olives, weather, soil conditions, and harvesting. Just like wine, no two olive oils are created equal. One should keep extra-virgin oils for salads, cooked veggie, dressings, stews, drizzling over slices of crusty bread, baked potatoes and vinaigrettes.  Heating such an superior olive oil is considered an etiquette crime.

Shrimp Saganaki as a classic Greek Meze

Oh so looking forward to what everyone will make for this 5 Star Makeover. Our theme this month is Greek Meze, or appetizers. We all checked in to make sure no recipe will be made twice so watch out for the round up for amazing Greek fare inspiration. I chose a wonderful meze which can easily be transformed into a main meal as well. My meze is called Garides Saganaki, or Shrimp Saganaki.

Tasty reading ahead, KEEP GOING… →

Review: O Clementine Olive Oil and O Zinfandel Vinegar plus a Contest

I know, I know I have been bad. I have been quiet, I have not been posting as much or catching up with commenting. I blame November. It’s such a blah month and my energies plummet. But also one of the reasons I have been more quiet is due to much research and experimenting. I have been working on a few very original recipes which would be a perfect fit to round off that fabulous menu for the holidays. Come back later today on the blog as I will be publishing one of these creations.

These recipes feature two products I was lucky enough to win recently on eRecipeCards: the O Clementine Olive Oil and O Zinfandel Vinegar from the Natural Box collection. Winning this prize also meant entering a contest. So I hope you come back and vote for me by putting this mysterious recipe (which will be posted later today) in you eRecipeBox. I’ll tell you all about that a bit later. Contest alert: YOU can be the winner of an absolutely divine vinegar too, details are at the bottom of the post!

This prize was awarded by my new favorite oil and vinegar company. If you follow my blog regularly you are well aware that I do the occasional product review and they are often interesting finds but not necessarily something that would knock my socks off. This time I was completely taken aback with my prize from O Olive Oil. I would even say pleasantly flabbergasted!  I know it sounds like a huge and ridiculous claim but it is 100% sincere. I LOVE my new oil and vinegar. So what makes O Olive Oil so special and unique to dazzle my exotic taste buds? The answer is surprisingly simple: keep things organic, keep things basic, take the time it needs and make it with love.

Let’s looks first at the Citrus Oils. This collection of oils are beautifully crafted by using the crush method. Fresh hand harvested California Mission olives are crushed directly with whole organic citrus within 48 hours of the harvests. It takes about 1½ lbs. of fresh, whole citrus to make each bottle of oil. As the extracts of both the olives and the fruit mingle in such a unique way the tastes bond, making for an intense marriage of flavors. This bit of info makes you realize quickly the poorer quality of many companies who mass produce by infusing or flavoring the already produced olive oil, sadly a common practice in the industry. There final product pales in comparison.

I received the O Clementine Olive Oil. I was already cooking up a storm in the kitchen before I really sat down to have a proper taste testing. I have a confessions to make: after pouring the amount required by my recipe of the Clementine oil I actually took a mini swig from the bottle. The beautiful coating of olive oil in my mouth was delicate and light in flavor but I did not taste a lot of the clementine at that moment. But once I sat down to take the pictures and properly savor it with a slice of white French bread, I had a completely different reaction to the taste. The clementine miraculously came to life and was now bursting with notes of zesty citrus all nicely layered in with a sweetness of the oil. The sumptuous yellow color coated the bread wonderfully. I was also really impressed by the results in my coming recipes.

The O Clementine Olive Oil is limited production. Keeping mind this is NOT an oil to fry foods is. A gentle warming in a pan will heighten the flavors, more will burn it.  I could see myself using this oil in a light salad mixed with a crisp and light vinegar. A light brushing over cooked seafood or chicken would be lovely too.

The second part of my prize from O Olive Oil was the Wine Vinegar collection. Again the company blasts the competition by nor rushing a good thing. The old world Orleans method is employed here by filling ventilated oak barrels with premium wine which naturally ages the wine turning it into vinegar over months or years.  The fact that the wines comes from near-by Napa Valley does not hurt either. Natural flavors are added slowly over time as the wine turns to vinegar.  The competition usually just mechanically ages using artificial flavors and ingredients.

I was thrilled to find the O Zinfandel Vinegar in my prize package. Before I even opened the bottle I was captivate by the magnificent ruby orange color. I dipped my bread in the aromatic liquid and took a bite. My taste buds where delighted with the wonderful sharp, smoky and tangy cherry notes the harsh vinegary taste. And as the taste lingers in your mouth you start wishing there really was a bottle of Zinfandel nearby.

Before I wrap things up I would like to send out a nice Thank You to eRecipeCards for hosting the give away and contest. If you are not familiar with this site you should. eRecipeCards is the home for food lovers, all of them. It is not a community based site like Facebook per say as you do not ‘make’ friends. The soul purpose is to share, add and bookmark recipes. Food bloggers love it as they can link and share their posts, and non writing foodies can discover fabulous recipes which they can keep in their eRecipeBox with one click. It is a new site that is growing rapidly. There are already thousands and thousands of recipes. It is free so why not join now and you will accumulate a collection of great new recipes to try. Go visit eRecipeCards.com

A drop of vinager in the oil - so colorful and pretty

O Olive Oil is more than just the two types of products mentioned above. They also offer products like the Citrus Oils and Wine Vinegars. Extra Virgin, Roasted Garlic, California Balsamic, Rice Vinegars, Citrus Tapenade, and more. You can find them in gourmet, natural food and specialty stores in the United States, Canada, Japan and Europe, and Latin America sell these products. Or you can simply order online. O Olive Oil is offering a 20% discount sale through the end of the year on ANY order. Just use the exclusive promo code e-recipecards when you check out. Plus if your order total is more than 60$ you will get free shipping.

CONTEST TIME! Win a bottle of O pomegranate champagne vinegar which is describe on the site as sweet, round, and subtle. A hint of raspberries and faraway Mediterranean lands. Ripe and scarlet. California pomegranate steeped in barrel-aged champagne. Splash on spinach, feta and pecan salad. Punch up late summer stews and soups. Brush on roasted rosemary lemon chicken. Yes, yes and yes please! O Olive Oil is not hosting this contest. I will personally send a bottle of this fine vinegar out of my own pocket because I really think their products are that good!

To enter all you have to do is go O Olive Oil on Facebook (I will be checking) and then come back leaving me a comment saying you did so. Open to everyone around the world! Deadline Dec 6th 2011 noon EST.

Pappa al Pomodoro Soup

Hello and yes I am alive. I sorta fell off the planet for a week for no real good reason. But I am back, I hope lol.

An old friend of mine gave me this recipe at least 10 years ago. I had this soup at her place and requested the recipe. I made it once, scarfed it down because it is so good….and never made it again till now. I have no idea why but I won’t let another 10 years go by again for sure.

Pappa al pomodoro is a traditional recipe from Tuscany and it is a wonderful summery soup that can help make the autumnal blues go away. It is incredibly satisfying and full of flavor. You can enjoy it hot or chilled. It is very consistent and with some tofu this makes a great vegetarian meal, just add a block of cubed tofu at the same time then the bread. This is a main course soup for sure (Dana this one is for you).

Pappa al pomodoro translates to bread and tomato soup. I know it sounds weird but I promise it will be in your top 5 favorite soups of all time. And there is nothing fancy in here: tomatoes, bread, basil, olive oil are the corner stones of this recipe….all very affordable ingredients. This is the quintessential (so far) Cheap Ethnic Eatz!

There are so many versions of this recipe but basically the main difference between them is the bread to liquid ratio. If you want it very think use less broth an tomatoes, if you want it much soupier add broth and tomatoes. Also the grated hard cheese is not part of the traditional recipe…but it is so awesome! Experiment!

Ξ Pappa al Pomodoro Soup Ξ

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 28-ounce can chopped tomatoes
  • 1/2 loaf day-old rustic Italian bread (about 4 cups), torn into 1 inch cube pieces
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup fresh basil, torn
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • Extra virgin olive oil to drizzle
  • Grated Parmigiano Reggiano (optional)
  • block of tofu, cubed (optional)

Directions

  1. In a large heavy pan heat oil over moderately high heat until quite hot. In the mean time chop onion, mince garlic and saute onion and garlic until softened.
  2. Stir in the hole can of chopped tomatoes into the pan.
  3. Add the bread chunks and broth ( and optional tofu) to tomato mixture, making sure all the bread is submerged, and simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until bread has absorbed liquid and has a porridge consistency.
  4. Add the basil, season with salt and pepper, and let the soup simmer  for another 5 minutes.
  5. Top with Parmigiano Reggiano to taste (for me more is not enough) and drizzle a little it of olive oil.

Serves 4

Hair Lightener Recipe

Yes, you read it right! This is NOT a food recipe. But a recipe with kitchen ingredients for your hair. Below you will find a few ideas on how to naturally lighten your hair.

My natural color is medium ash blond. Now I have never dyed my hair drastically. In the summer my hair gets a lot paler in the sun. By mid winter (now) I am depressed with the dullness of my hair color with slightly darker roots not kissed enough by the sun. So I have been debating getting the usual hair dye box at the pharmacy.

But I decided against it and went searching online. I already new about rinsing out my hair with lemon juice to cut extra grease and lighten a bit. But can it be used to really make a difference in the color and give it a lightness? This is what I found at Bliss Plan:

Best for blonds but good for brunettes wanting auburn highlights:

Lemon juice is a more natural alternative than hydrogen peroxide. One fresh lemon will give you approximately 2 tablespoons of a lemon juice. Mix this juice with approximately 6 tablespoons of water and rub it in to your dry hair [more juice if your hair is long, less juice if it’s short}. Allow the juice to remain on your hair for several hours before you rinse it out. If you repeat this for several days you will have very natural hair highlights. Of course, if you also take your lemon juice covered hair out in the sunshine that will speed the process up. The best thing about using lemon juice as a hair colorant is that it looks very natural.

For brunettes:

Yes, hair coloring with tea is possible. We are talking about ordinary tea that we drink every day and use in our favorite iced tea recipe. Tea, though, is funny — it can lighten hair but it can also darken light colored hair. Steep your favorite tea and allow it to sit until cool. Test it out, just like we did with the hydrogen peroxide, and see what happens. Unlike the other methods we’ve mentioned above, this method requires patience because the changes will take longer.

From Natural News:

Olive oil contains lightening agents in addition to its undeniable ability to give hair a certain softness and sheen. It’s excellent for counteracting any drying effects lemon juice may have on your hair. Mix a tablespoon or two of olive oil in a cup of water with one tablespoon of pure lemon juice. Massage mixture into hair and leave to soak for 30 minutes. Rinse well; two shampoos may be required to completely remove the olive oil.

Another old-fashioned method used for brightening hair is chamomile. Regular chamomile tea mixed with lemon juice can be rinsed through hair daily until the desired effect is achieved. Enhanced results can be seen if you boil the tea yourself using chamomile flowers. Using the natural flowers instead of tea bags seems to have a much stronger effect.

Honey is a superb hair lightener because it naturally contains traces of hydrogen peroxide. You can mix a tablespoon of honey with a cup of water and let it sit for 30 minutes to allow the peroxide to develop. Then coat hair completely with the mixture and allow it to sit for at least 20 minutes. After applying the mixture, you can also cover hair with saran wrap and leave overnight. Add a tablespoon of olive oil to the mix for an intense overnight moisture treatment.

After using any of these methods, you can enhance your results by sitting with your hair in the sun for about 20-30 minutes. The sun is known for its brightening effect on hair, and the items listed above will further activate the sun’s lightening power.